New EU rules on spam and privacy take effect

14 November 2003 The European Union’s crusade on spam and a range of privacy and data protection issues has begun to take effect across the region, with Ireland introducing new rules this week and the UK expected to follow shortly.

Dermot Ahern, the Irish communications minister, signed into law a raft of new regulations that form part of the European Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, which came into effect throughout the EU on 31 October.


The UK is set to introduce similar regulations on 11 December.

The main features include guidelines into the use of cookies and spyware, restrictions on unsolicited direct marketing by telephone, fax, automated calling systems, email, SMS and MMS, and the right for subscribers listed in publicly available directories to determine what personal data is included.

Individuals will also gain the right to know how their personal data might be used or accessed via a public directory, prior to any information being used.

The moves, while welcomed by many privacy campaigners, have nevertheless been criticised as ineffective by some critics.

The regulations will have little effect on spam, they say, given that most unsolicited email originates outside the EU’s borders.

There are also fears that the rules will only protect individual subscribers and leave commercial subscribers – and their employees – open to spam email and text messages. This could have the effect of legitimising spam sent to businesses, which is likely to increase the volume sent – not reduce it.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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